By Nathan Ham
A newly-paved scenic drive will connect people in Beech Mountain to neighboring Tennessee much quicker and easier than in years past after Thursday’s special ribbon cutting celebrating the paving of Buckeye Creek Road.
The 2.7-mile road has 40 curves and takes drivers across the back of Beech Mountain into Tennessee near Watauga Lake. This project has been discussed multiple times in years past, but finally happened this summer.
“At one time the DOT wanted to extend N.C. 184 through here and they said they’d pave it, but there were people that didn’t think that was best at the time,” said longtime Beech Mountain resident and business owner, Fred Pfohl. “Now it’s all done and it’s wonderful. We’ve got the town council and especially Bob Pudney (town manager) to thank for all of this. This road got paved in such a short period of time it was amazing.”
Pfohl said that the best part of all of this work and planning is the partnerships that have been created between the town, county and neighboring counties in Tennessee.
Numerous officials from Tennessee were in attendance on Thursday for the ribbon cutting, including Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and former Rep. Scotty Campbell, who is seeking to return to the state legislature this November after not running for re-election in 2012 following his decision to serve just one term in the state house.
“This is a big deal for the Town of Beech Mountain and a big deal for Avery County” said Bob Pudney, who is the town manager and serves as fire chief for Beech Mountain. “Buckeye Creek Road now provides our residents and safety personnel a second, paved route to enter or exit the mountain in the case of an emergency. A couple of years ago, we had to have water rescue support from our Tennessee neighbors, and we realized then that it was really critical to get our access road paved from that side of the town.”
The new road should also bring about new economic opportunities that did not exist before, thanks to the efforts of many in the High Country.
“It took four counties to try and get this together: Avery, Watauga, Carter and Johnson, and we really needed your support and we appreciate it,” said Sandy Carr, Chairperson of the Beech Mountain Tourism Development Authority Board. “You all didn’t just support us for a couple months, we have been working on this for a couple of years now.”
Kate Gavenus, the Beech Mountain TDA Director, says that there are several ideas being tossed about for the new road, including a regional “High Low Trail” that could feature restaurant tours, a hiking loop and a winery loop that will be expanded on even more in the spring. Many drivers, road cyclists and motorcyclists have already discovered this scenic drive. The driving trail is expected to be ready for off-the-beaten-path adventurers in May 2021.
“We are so pleased at the turnout from our neighbors in Tennessee. We had a lot of good support from them and they understand how this is going to improve the economy for everybody. When I came along, we had only marketed the front half of the mountain, we never marketed anything back here,” said Gavenus.
Buckeye Creek Road is easily accessible from Beech Mountain Road and connects the town to U.S. Highway 321.
In the spring of 2020, the Beech Mountain Town Council unanimously approved a contract bid to pave Buckeye Creek Road. The cost was $685,000, which was taken from general reserves. This project was part of the town’s long-term comprehensive plan and was completed in June.
“This is a huge step for Beech Mountain and has opened up many areas to easier access,” stated Mayor Barry Kauffman. “Our residents and visitors now have a quicker way to travel to communities on the other side of the mountain, including Watauga Lake, Elizabethon and Mountain City, Tennessee, as well as Boone, NC.”
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